A Reference Resource and Historical Archive.
Gillette Adjustable Razors
Prior to the invention of the Gillette Adjustable razor, as it was ultimately brought to market in the 1950's, Gillette was refining the basic architecture of the double edge razor. The two areas they identified as ones in need were the blade loading mechanism and the need for blade exposure adjustability.to meet the shaving needs of a larger group of people.
Blade Loading Mechanism: As early as the mid 1930's Gillette was toying with the idea of a quick opening mechanism. By providing an innovative product, not only could Gillette increase customer satisfaction, but they could protect their markets though proprietary intellectual property. Before the twist-to-open knob, Gillette envisioned activated "cap" doors that would open exposing an area to accept a razor blade. This was the birth of the toggle lever. However, the toggle lever would be phased out completely by 1961 after first being exposed to the public in June of 1956.The twist-to-open mechanism would become the undisputed top method of opening the head of the razor for blade loading.
Blade Exposure Adjustablility: Gillette knew early on that a method was needed to customize the user's shave to meet the needs of individuals. Because of individual differences in whisker thickness and facial skin types, one size fits all did not work well to capture a broad base of consumers with a single product. In the early 1950's, Gillette was trying to solve the adjustability problem in earnest. They brought out the Trio of Super-Speed razors. A user had 3 simple choices: Light, Regular and Heavy. Finally, in 1958 Gillette had solved the adjustablity problem using engineering and marketing focus groups to produce a widely available, low cost solution to the problem. The widely popular Fatboy was born!
The Gillette Fatboy Razor Family
1934 Gillette's First Twist-To-Open Patent
In the picture above are the three (3) types of Bottom Dials.The two types on the left are representative of what these 1-5 position Bottom Dials would have looked like from the factory. Please also notice the main recognizable difference between the two bottom dials on the left and the one on the right is the terminating label number on the adjustment dial - the two on the left terminate with a "5" and the one on the right terminates with a "9".
As far as rarity, the Black Dial 1-5 type is the most rare; maybe four of these exist. Next is the Nickel Dial 1-5 type; about six of these exist. Both of the 1-5 Position types were Gillette prototypes and were for research purposes only. They never had cases or other accoutrements. The Nickel Dial 1-9 type was actually sold at the retail level so there are more of these are available. I would say there are about 3 or 4 dozen of these still in existence today. It is not unheard of for a single uncased nickel 1-9 Bottom Dial to go for over $2000 at auction.
Five (5) Total Different Types of Toggles.
At first glance they all appear similar, but they are different in a few ways.What separates the major types is a Bill of Materials difference. That is, the members of each major type share a common parts list.
First, look at the adjustment dial. The leftmost Serial Toggle has a "Red Dot" position indicator and it's maximum position setting is "5". The middle Standard Toggle also has a "Red Dot" position indicator, however it's maximum position setting is "9". The rightmost Chrome Toggle has a "Black Spring" indicator which has two function: to indicate the position and to provide resistance and tactile feedback at each setting.
Next, look at the heads. The blade trays are different on each type. The leftmost Serial Toggle adjusts the blade by applying pressure to the blade in four (4) places. From the front you can see two horizontal bars. The middle Standard Toggle has a "Toothy Grin". You can see five (5) horizontal bars from the front and the entire plate adjusts up and down. The rightmost Chrome Toggle has just one (1) horizontal bar and again the entire plate adjusts up and down.
Each of the Toggle lever lengths are different. The longest being the Standard Toggle and the shortest being the Chrome Toggle. When the Silo doors are open, the stamping on the Standard and Chrome Toggle say "PAT NO. ON PKG." while the Serial Toggle has no stamping on the blade tray. And finally, the Serial Toggle has a serial number stamped on the base plate; the Standard Toggle and the Chrome Toggles have their date codes stamped there.Type your paragraph here.
There are three types of Bottom Dials. The first is the Nickel Dial 1-5 Position; the next type is the Black Dial 1-5 Position; and finally the Nickel Dial 1-9 Position.
There are three (3) major types of Toggles (and two sub-types, but more about that later.) The first leftmost is the Serial Toggle. The next major type is the Standard Toggle (in the middle) and finally the Chrome Toggle on the right.
Legend for Photograph Above
Adjustable Blade Exposure in the
1911 Single Ring
So when you include "from-the-factory" plating differences there are two additional sub-types of Toggles. Of the major type Serial Toggle there are a gold plated and a nickel plated sub-types. The Standard Toggle only came in a gold plated version. And, finally of the major type Chrome Toggle there are gold and a nickel plated sub-types. This gives five (5) "from-the-factory" different models of Gillette Toggles and they are pictured here. The top row is the Serial Toggles; the middle row is the Standard Toggle; and the bottom row are the Chrome Toggles.
As far as rarity, the Red Dot Fatboy is far less common than the other types of Fatboys. The Red Dot Fatboy can command $600 or more at auction. The Executive Fatboy is more rare than the Standard Fatboy. And, the uncased Standard Fatboy is fairly common and easy to find..
There are two types of Slims. The First is the gold plated Aristocrat Slim and the other is the Standard Slim.
The following photos show the internal parts of two types of Toggle razors and their major part names. Parts lists are also called a Bill of Materials. Notice with the Serial Toggle on the left that the base plate/blade bed and bottom plate are a major design difference to the Standard Toggle on the right. On the Serial Toggle, the bottom plate does the blade adjusting and on the Standard Toggle the base plate/blade bed does the blade adjusting.
1924 Gillette's First Adjustable Razor Patent
Hello, and thank you so much for taking the time to visit this website. In order to make the site a more valuable resource to our users, I have started putting a "Recent Sales:" section at the end of most of the razor pages. In this way, not only can you see pictures of excellent examples of the various razors but you can estimate their value from how much they are selling for. Please remember that the condition of the razor and the completeness of the razor set as it compares to like new condition will greatly affect the value of a razor. This is why I am putting a representative picture of the razor next to its selling price. Please come back often as things will be changing on a daily or weekly basis. Or, at least come back if you want to see what your favorite adjustable razors are going for value wise.
Further, I hope that this website will ultimately be a comprehensive reference and historical archive to all the vintage Gillette Adjustable double edge blade safety razors. It is a work in progress. I have not optimized the site for a phone display yet and while it does work on a phone it is best to use a large format monitor at this time to view the site. If you have the option, please use your biggest monitor to view it. My apologies. Also, if anything gets too boring or technical, just skip to the razor pages for the individual photos. I am updating them all the time. Thank you for looking, please enjoy the site and feedback at the contact us page is sincerely appreciated.
The Gillette Adjustables were produced from 1955 until 1988. The first was the A-3 Serial Numbered Toggle and the last being the I-2 diamond knurled Super Adjustable "Black Beauty" with black plastic bottom plate. The A-3 Serial Toggles had a 4 digit serial number stamped into the bottom plate and were sold for $7.50 originally. Next the Fatboy was introduced and produced from 1958 to 1961. There was also a "standard" Toggle produced in 1958 and 1960. Prior to the production of the F-4 Bottom Dials which were sold for $1.95 originally there was a small run of prototype Bottom Dial razors made. These prototype razors have no date code, their handles are made out of aluminum and the last adjustment position is "5". There was a F-4 "Chrome" type Toggle produced in 1960. Next came the Slim Adjustable and they were produced from 1961 to 1968. The Super-84 (short black handle) and Super-109 (long black handle) were produced from 1968 to 1976. From 1977 to1981 the Super Adjustable with black plastic bottom plate and vertical knurling was produced. And finally from 1980 to 1988 the Super Adjustable with diamond knurling and black plastic bottom plate was produced.
Glenn Conti - Razor Collector / Archivist / Webmaster
If you understand the terminology or part names, you will be able to enjoy this site more fully. Please take a moment to scan the following Adjustable Razor Anatomy photo.
The 1955 Trio of Super-Speeds: Meeting Diverse Custom Needs for Different Blade Exposures.
Here is the complete family of Gillette Adjustable double edge razors. There are 18 different types or models in all. Each is unique in a special way. There are 3 major characteristics used to classify these razors in the family.
1) PLATING.The first characteristic is the type of plating or coating used by Gillette in the factory. There were two basic types; either nickel or gold but there is a sub-type. I have put the black painted 1-5 position Bottom Dial razor (#6) in a category of its own because originally this black paint coating was applied by Gillette at the factory. Please also note the 1-9 position Bottom Dial (#8) shown in the picture was originally plated in Nickel by the factory. So please do not be confused. The example shown in the photo was replated and restored with an aftermarket 24 Carat gold plating but again was originally Nickel plated from the factory so that is how I have listed it. Again razor #8 was originally nickel plated but I didn't have an example of an original nickel plated Bottom Dial so I used a replated version for the photo. As far as I know there is no such thing as a from the factory "Gold 1-9 Position Bottom Dial".
2) MAX ADJUSTMENT DIAL POSITION.The second characteristic is the marked adjustment dial positions. All of the adjustables have 9 distinct adjustment positions; either 1 , . , 3 , . , 5 , . , 7 , . , 9 with a maximum indicated position of 9 or 9 distinct adjustment positions 1 , . , 2 , . , 3 , . , 4 , . , 5 with a maximum indicated position of 5. I have listed them as either a 1-9 position or a 1-5 position. So in this category, there are two distinct types.
3) BILL OF MATERIALS (BOM)/MODEL.The third characteristic is generally the model name as identified by Gillette or the common slang name given to that model. If the manufacturing parts Bill of Materials was unique to that model then the razor got its own type. For example, the Gillette Aristocrat Slim (#13) has the same Bill of Materials as the more common nickel plated Standard Slim (#12) but because Gillette gave them separate names, they each are classified by me as a separate type. There are three different bill of material types of Toggles. The first is the 1-5 gold (#1) and the 1-5 nickel (#2). These each have the same parts Bill of Materials but are distinguished by their plating type. The second BOM type of Toggle is the "Chrome" Toggle type. I believe Joachim Duwe aka Mr-Razor, a great collector in Germany, first used this name to describe this BOM type. However it is a bit of a misnomer in that both razor #3 and razor #4 share the same BOM but there is indeed a gold plated version. The gold plated version of the "Chrome" toggle was discovered by Stan Hickam at AboveTheTie and was subsequently partially disassembled by master razor mechanic Chris Smith aka Captain Murphy so that he could indeed validate that the internal parts were plated in gold at the factory. The third and final toggle BOM type is the Gold 1-9 Position Standard Toggle (#5). No nickel version of this BOM type exists as far as I know. The Nickel 1-9 Position Red Dot Fatboy (#9) is a BOM type that does not have a gold plated version. The Nickel 1-9 Position Standard Fatboy (#10) has a different BOM than its cousin the Gold 1-9 Position Executive Fatboy (#11); the knurling on the TTO knob is different on each. The Standard Fatboy has a cross hatch knurling TTO knob and the Executive Fatboy has a vertical and horizontal knurling TTO knob.
One final note on the classification system. There are weird anomalous razor examples that have made it out into the hands of collectors. If there are strange stamping examples, they did not get their own category. For each of the different types they may have been produced for many years; each having the same BOM but different date code stampings; these are minor differences in my opinion. For example, I have an F-4 Red Dot Fatboy! This is a unique razor that I obtained from the great collector Tom Owens, but it did not get it's own standing in the classification system because it's BOM is identical to the D-1 Red Dot Fatboy. As another example there were minor changes to the Standard Fatboy such as the removal of the service notches on the retainer cap at the bottom of the TTO knob. I do not consider that a major change. So, I don't have multiple different Standard Fatboys in the photo which are slightly different. Also, Tom Owens has a Standard Slim that was built by Gillette with a Super Adjustable metal base plate. There exist a couple examples of this type of razor manufacturing anomaly. To me this was not enough of a difference to get it's own place in the taxonomy and because it wasn't a separate model of Gillette razor. Similarly this is why the unusual Executive Fatboys that were built with Standard Fatboy TTO knob parts did not get their own place in the system. Others may differ with me on that decision but it is what it is.
Three Types of Fatboys
Three Major Types of Toggles
Three Major Types of "Black Beauty"
Classifying the Gillette Adjustable Razors: A Scientific Taxonomy.
Two Types of Slims
The Gillette Bottom Dial Razor Family
Switch in 1977 to a Black Plastic Bottom Plate
Toggle Razor Parts and Their Names
The Super-84 on the left. The Super-109 in the middle and the Gold Deluxe Super Adjustable on the right.
The Gillette Super Adjustable Razor Family
In the picture above are the two types of Slims. The Slim on the left is the Aristocrat Slim; it is identical in every way to the Standard Slim on the right; excepting the Aristocrat is gold plated and the Standard Slim is nickel plated. Even though these two razors have identical component parts lists, Gillette made a big deal about differentiating these two razors. The Aristocrat cost $5.00 and had a nice rectangular box type case while the Standard Slim cost $1.50 and had a lower cost plastic clam shell type case. But the razors are identical except for the plating. It is for this reason that I too use razor plating as a determinant for differentiating the Gillette Adjustable razor types. If, Gillette made a big distinction based on razor plating alone, then I will too.
In the picture above there are the three (3) types of Fatboys. All three types have 1-9 Position top located adustment dials. The leftmost razor pictured is the Executive Fatboy. It is very similar to it's cousin the Standard Fatboy, pictured on the far right. The main separating characteristic of the Executive is that it is plated from the factory in gold. The next difference is its Twist-To-Open knob; which has unique horizontal and vertical knurling, unlike the other two types which have cross hatched knurling. The middle pictured razor is the nickel plated Red Dot Fatboy. It is called that because the blade position indicator is a round indent that has been inlaid with red paint - it looks like a red dot. The position indicator on both the Executive and the Standard Fatboys are springs that have the dual purpose of indicating position and also providing resistance and click feedback to the user as the dial is turned to each position.The next difference is the "toothy grin" of the Red Dot Fatboy. This is because the base plate is different on the Red Dot; the entire plate raises or lowers, unlike the other two types of Fatboys. The razor pictured on the right is the Standard Fatboy. It is nickel plated and lightly shorter than the Red Dot Fatboy. The Standard Fatboy can have a red indicator spring. This causes some confusion but look closely; the cut out for the indicator is not a round indent - it is a rectangle that houses a long red spring that for the most part is unseen. So look for the circle or the rectangle; don't just look for the red color.
Please note there were slight manufacturing changes that were made to the Standard Fatboy. The changes are so minor that, in my opinion, they do not cause them to be classified as different types or sub-types of Fatboys. Below is an example of a slight change to the Standard Fatboy in it's collar design
The 1930's Concept Prototype Toggle Razor:
A new Blade Loading Mechanism
Two Early Stabs at Adjustablity
The Super-109, in the middle, out lasted the other two major types of Super Adjustable. It was later reincarnated in 1977 with a less expensive black pastic bottom plate with the same vertical knurling. Then it was reincarnated again in 1980 with a diamond pattern knurling on the handle.
Three Types of Bottom Dials
Switch in 1980 to Diamond Handle Knurling
1) Gold 1-5 Position Serial Toggle
2) Nickel 1-5 Position Serial Toggle
3) Gold 1-9 Position "Chrome" Toggle
4) Nickel 1-9 Position "Chrome" Toggle
5) Gold 1-9 Position Standard Toggle
6) Black 1-5 Position Bottom Dial
7) Nickel 1-5 Position Bottom Dial
8) Nickel 1-9 Position Bottom Dial *
9) Nickel 1-9 Position Red Dot Fatboy
10) Nickel 1-9 Position Standard Fatboy
11) Gold 1-9 Position Executive Fatboy
12) Nickel 1-9 Position Standard Slim
13) Gold 1-9 Position Aristocrat Slim
14) Gold 1-9 Position Super Adjustable/New Aristocrat
15) Nickel 1-9 Position Super-84
16) Nickel 1-9 Position Super-109
17) Nickel 1-9 Position Super Adustable - Black Bottom Plate - Vertical Knurl
18) Nickel 1-9 Position Super Adjustable - Black Bottom Plate - Diamond Knurl
Gillette Adjustable Razor Anatomy
The Gillette Toggle Razor Family
As far as manufacturing dates, the Serial Toggle has a date code of A-3 placing it at the third quarter of 1955. The Standard Toggle has two different manufacturing date codes D-1 (first quarter 1958) and F-4 (fourth quarter 1960). The Chrome Toggle has only one date code stamp - it was manufactured in the fourth quarter of 1960 for a date code of F-4.
As far as rarity, the Nickel Serial Toggle and the Gold Chrome Toggle are the hardest to find. At this writing, there are only three (3) Nickel Serial Toggles in collector's hands and there is only one known Gold Chrome Toggle. The next tier are the Gold Serial Toggles; there are a couple dozen of those in the hands of collectors. Each of the Serial Toggles is stamped on the underside of the head on the bottom plate with a serial number and this is how this type gets its name. Next in rarity are the Nickel Chrome Toggles - I am just guessing but from the frequency of appearance in auctions, I would say there are a hundred or so of these around still. The Final tier is the Standard Toggle. Again it only came from the factory in a gold plating. The D-1 from 1958 is more scarce than the F-4 from 1960. So the most common toggle is the F-4 Standard Toggle, but even these are not so common. The F-4 Standard Toggle in average condition, by itself, with no case or other accoutrements goes at auction for over $250 or more. And finally another word about rarity. Complete sets, including price tags (which are the first thing to get thrown out), warranty card (next to go), shippers (also very hard to get), instruction sheets, cases and blades, are very hard to come by and will definitely increase the value of a razor substantially.
There are three types of Fatboys. The First is the gold plated Executive Fatboy; the next is the Red Dot Fatboy; and finally the Standard Fatboy.
The Pre-History Leading up to Introduction of the Fully Adjustable Razor
The Gillette SLIM Razor Family
*Razor #8 in the photo was originally from the factory nickel plated by Gillette. However, this particular razor shown in the photo was re-plated in 24 Carat Gold by an aftermarket razor restorer. Please don't be confused!.